New program training dislocated industrial workers

Thursday, November 11, 2010
Darrell Morrison, right, and John Cabaniss participate in a basic electrical class as Rich Gross, standing, industrial trainer at Mineral Area College, oversees things at the Career and Technology Center in Cape Girardeau on Wednesday. The class is part of an Industrial Pre-Employment Skills Training Program funded by federal stimulus money granted to Mineral Area College.
KRISTIN EBERTS
keberts@semissourian.com

Being unemployed doesn't just bring financial challenges. There are emotional stresses, too.

"I go to an interview and I come home and have to tell my husband that I've failed it. My daughter said to me after my last interview, 'I'm just about to give up on you, Mom,' and that just ripped my heart out," said a 40-year-old Fruitland woman who has 14 years of manufacturing experience. "I've always tried to teach my kids to be strong and be a go-getter, and I'm just not setting a very good example."

Penny, who asked that her last name not be used, lost her job at a local packaging company about nine months ago and has struggled to find a new job.

She's hopeful about her next job interview because she's now part of the Industrial Pre-Employment Skills Training Program, funded by federal stimulus money given to Mineral Area College.

"I want my kids to see I'm trying to better myself," she said. "But I kind of feel like a failure right now. How do I sell myself to these companies?"

Jonathan Evans and Crystal Brown participate in a basic electrical class at the Career and Technology Center in Cape Girardeau on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. The class is part of an Industrial Pre Employment Skills Training Program funded by federal stimulus money granted to Mineral Area College. (Kristin Eberts)

Interview skills and resume writing are both part of the five-week, 200-hour free training program coordinated through a partnership between Cape Girardeau Area Magnet, the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, Carpenter's District Council, Mineral Area College and the SEMO Regional Industrial Training Group, a consortium of 20 area industries. Participants are guaranteed a job interview with a local company when their training is completed.

Participants will learn technical skills, complete an OSHA certification in industrial safety and study quality control, team building and problem solving.

To qualify, people must be classified by the Missouri Career Center as "dislocated workers," people who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, said Bev Hickam, director of business and industry programs at Mineral Area College. A second training class will be offered in January.

"We were looking for people who were motivated and open to the learning process," Hickam said. "I can assure you there are no slackers here."

Participants who qualified as "dislocated workers" had to complete a skills assessment, interview and drug test before being selected for training. The program started Nov. 1, with participants ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-50s attending classes at both the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center and Carpenter's District Council training center. Some have industrial experience, but many do not. One is a former schoolteacher.

"A lot of workers are now dislocated that have held jobs for 15 or 20 years. Technology in the industry has changed dramatically during that time. We see a lot of people who otherwise may be viable candidates for us, but they aren't up to speed on the technology," said Birdie LeGrand, training coordinator at Nordenia USA, a member of the SEMO Regional Industrial Training Group.

In many cases, the reason their former employer is now out of business is, in part, because they didn't update equipment and practices to keep up with changing technology, LeGrand said.

"Back in the old days, when you talked going to work at a factory, you came in and ran your machine. If it broke, you took a break and called maintenance. Now, every employee must know multiple skills. You may be expected to fix it yourself or expected to troubleshoot to figure out what the issue is before you call maintenance," LeGrand said.

Basic electricity, carpentry, hydraulics, mechanical and precision measurement and computer skills are all components of the training program and skills LeGrand said she has difficulty finding in job applicants.

"The more well-rounded you are, the more attractive you are to any employer," LeGrand said.

A 31-year-old Cape Girardeau man who lost his job at a local warehouse about a year ago said the broad range of skills offered made the training course appealing to him.

After being introduced to new trade skills, he's interested in taking more courses at the Career and Technology Center in the future to further develop them, said the man, who asked his name not be used.

Participants will spend the most time on computer skills, an area that a 53-year-old Scott City woman knew she needed to improve on.

"Everything is so technical anymore," said the woman, who lost her job about six months ago when the towboat company she worked for moved to Kentucky.

Attending the training classes are a welcome change from the frustration of mailing resumes, filling out online applications and waiting for the phone to ring.

"I feel so guilty," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. "I have to work. I pay all the bills, and it's pretty skinny after that. My teenage daughters want new clothes and new shoes, and I keep telling them they have to wait until I get a job."

People interested in taking part in the next round of training beginning in January may apply through the Missouri Career Center, 573-290-5766.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1080 Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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